Significant and Noteworthy Cases
Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee take great pride in the number of cases that have not only resulted in substantial recovery for its clients, but also for establishing legal precedent in areas of complex law and litigation.
Several large verdicts are highlighted below:
Workers’ Compensation Cases
The firm was recently out in front in securing major victories before the WCAB in San Francisco. In two cases dealing with claims against the Subsequent Injuries Fund (SIF), Gold Lee and Vanessa Cooksey obtained favorable decisions on behalf of our clients that clarified requirements for eligibility against the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund. In both cases, the primary issue was whether the prior disability should be “added” to the subsequent injury in arriving at the final disability percentage for the injured worker. SIF has asserted for years that the percentages are not added but rather “combined” using a formula that makes it difficult to qualify for SIF benefits and severely limits the benefits for those that do qualify. Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke,Sherwin & Lee, have been a leader in establishing case law in SIF claim and many law firms had been anxiously awaiting a decision by the WCAB providing guidance to the trial courts.
In Kwasigroch v. SIF, senior partner Gold Lee convinced a three commissioner panel that the disabilities should be added and not combined. More recently, in Todd v. SIF, partner Vanessa Cooksey, received an En Banc (all 5 commissioners) unanimous decision confirming that disabilities should be added. The Todd decision puts to rest the argument SIF has asserted for years on “adding v combining” and gives clarity to injured workers and their attorneys on moving forward with claims agains SIF. The Todd decision is perhaps one of the most significant decisions to come from the WCAB in the past five years.
Personal Injury Cases
In Evers v. Rachlin Furniture, Thomas Wicke was able to successfully obtain over $425,000.00 for injuries received as the result of a defective chair causing significant spinal injuries.
In Whitford v. Martin Bros., The firm was able to successfully argue to a jury that Mr. Whitford’s back was significantly injured in a construction accident whereby he was unable to continue to work in his normal occupation. The jury awarded $1,487,500.00 for his total damages.
In Ware v. Barnhart, the firm obtained a jury verdict of $1,300,000.00 when Mr. Ware was injured when he fell through a roof in a construction project.
In Ventura v. Allen Automatic Sprinkler, et al., the plaintiff sued for spinal injuries suffered as a result of a rear-end collision. The plaintiff was a retired firefighter, and not working at the time of the accident. The defense argued that his injuries were pre-existing, as he had significant, natural degeneration at the time of the accident. At mediation, the firm was able to successfully obtain a $462,500 settlement for the plaintiff.
In Harrold v. Lyons, et al., the plaintiff suffered damage to his cervical and lumbar spine as a result of a rear-end collision wherein the defendant was driving while intoxicated. The plaintiff missed five months of work as a deputy sheriff, returned to work for approximately one year, and then went back off work due to the continuing symptoms. Plaintiff was then advised that he needed a lumbar fusion surgery to reduce his pain. The defense argued that his injuries from the accident were minor, and that the surgery was really necessitated from two prior, lower back injuries whereby plaintiff missed five months of work for each, in combination with natural degeneration. The parties agreed to submit the matter to mediation, and the firm was able to secure a $700,000 settlement for the plaintiff shortly thereafter.
In Turpin v. Bell Tow, et al., the plaintiff, a deputy sheriff, was injured at a tow yard when a tow yard employee stepped on a creeper, and then slipped and fell onto plaintiff’s knee, causing a tibial plateau fracture and torn ACL. Plaintiff sustained four surgeries, and missed 14 months of work as a result. The firm was able to secure a $720,000 settlement for the plaintiff on the eve of trial.
Disability Pension Cases
In Weissman v. Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association, Thomas Wicke was able to successfully argue that a person could apply for a service connected disability retirement after previously taking a service pension. This published Decision opened the doors for employees who became aware of their disabilities after they retired to then attempt to convert their service pension to a disability pension.
In Raygoza v. County of Los Angeles, Thomas Wicke was able to successfully argue to the Court of Appeal that Ronald Raygoza was entitled to his job and retroactive benefits after his disability retirement had been denied and the County of Los Angeles refused to reinstate him to a position consistent with his work restrictions. This case reinforced a prior Decision against the County of Los Angeles handled by Michael Roberts in Leili v. County of Los Angeles where the Los Angeles County Fire Department failed to reinstate Mr. Leili after work restrictions had been placed upon him by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Not only did Mr. Leili obtain the right to his job, but also retroactive salary and benefits.
In Dakins v. City of Los Angeles, Michael Roberts was successfully able to argue that under article 18 of the Los Angeles City Charter, an injured police officer or fire fighter could not be denied a finding of service connection by the Fire and Police Pension Commission when the injured worker had previously been granted through workers’ compensation a finding that the injury was industrial. Dakins significantly strengthened the law that the City of Los Angeles must treat its fire fighters and police officers consistently by granting service connected disability retirement when the City had previously granted workers’ compensation benefits.
In Jackson v. State of California, the California Court of Appeal issued a published decision upholding the concept that apportionment of permanent disability to non-industrial factors is precluded in any case where a presumptive injury occurs. The decision in 2008, was argued by Robert Sherwin as a “Friend of the Court” on behalf of 28,000 safety members in the State of California.